Whether all that happiness can persuade Langston to re-sign with Montreal is still in question, but he has been a tremendous asset since joining the team. After his 13-strikeout, four-hit performance against the Reds last Thursday, he was 7-3 as an Expo with a 2.21 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 85% innings. "He has been every bit as dominant as we expected," says Rodgers. "But on this staff, he doesn't have to carry the burden of being the Number One guy. We've got a couple of other guys who can lay claim to that, too."
One of them is Bryn Smith, whose 2.07 ERA at week's end was the lowest in the majors. He was 9-3 and had allowed more than three earned runs only once in his 19 starts this season. Smith has rebounded from elbow surgery he had at the end of the 1986 season to return to the form that made him 18-5 in 1985. The other starter, who would be No. 1 on a lot of teams, is Martinez, a former Oriole who has put his career back together after going through alcohol rehab five years ago. He was 11-1 with a 3.23 ERA after getting the decision in a 12-4 win over Cincinnati on Sunday.
With Langston, Smith and Martinez a combined 27-7 and Burke tied for fourth in the league in saves with 21, Montreal has been able to overcome a troublesome string of injuries. Outfielder Hubie Brooks and first baseman Andres Galarraga, who combined for 49 homers and 182 RBIs last season, will likely be hampered for the rest of the season by knee injuries, and last week Owen was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ankle. Raines is hobbled by a right quadriceps strain that limited him to two starts from June 26 to July 16. "It's probably going to bother me the rest of the season," he says. "It hurts me when I bat righthanded, but most of all, it keeps me from being able to run."
Because he can no longer run wild on the base paths, Raines is in what Rodgers calls "the transition from an intimidating terror on the bases to a Joe Morgan-kind of player." Rodgers has moved Raines into the cleanup spot, and Raines has responded by hitting .459 with runners in scoring position. "This team is completely different because we're just a bunch of guys," says Raines. "We don't have a star. The leader is probably Spike Owen."
"That's one reason this team has such chemistry," says reliever Andy McGaffigan. "Tim Raines is a star, but he doesn't know it."
"This is a team that bonds together well," says Owen. "Players do things together. I also think it's easier to come together as a team in this situation. First, there isn't all the media attention there is in Boston, New York or cities like that. Second, we're all in another country together, and I think that brings us together more than some place where half the players live there year-round and have a separate circle of friends and interests."
Oh, how winning makes a difference. The old bugaboo about playing in a foreign country now seems like an asset. "It's different, but you get used to it," says Bryn Smith's wife, Patti. "The ball club is incredible to the players' families. The team has baby-sitting services at the park. This year it has French lessons for players and their wives. It arranges bus field trips for the families when the club's on the road. There are numbers we can call if anything happens when the team is gone."
However, Patti also admits that she usually takes an hour-long drive across the border to Plattsburgh, N.Y., to do the food shopping. "When I shop in Montreal, I can figure out what's in cans and jars by reading the English part of the labels," she says. "But there are important staples we have to go there for, like Doritos."
Adds Bryn, "There are two things that really get to the players. They don't serve ketchup with french fries. They serve gravy. Then when you order a Coke, they don't put ice in it. They don't know how to make iced tea. Ice is hard to come by, and if you ask for it, they tell you in French that you're stupid because you get more Coke without the ice."
Most players would rather forgo these hardships. "Other than Pete Rose [in '84], the last free agent the Expos signed [from another club] was Elias Sosa in 1979," says Rodgers. "No free agent will come here. Almost every no-trade provision includes Montreal. That puts us at a big competitive disadvantage. People think this is like going to play in Siberia, but Montreal is a great city with a marvelous life-style."